Saturday, October 17, 2009

Is Content Protection Futile?

One of my oldest associates in Second Life, Gwyneth Llewelyn, does a great blog of her own, bringing about great discussions on timely topics that do far more than scratch the surface, like some other blogs. Yet, its not flame ridden and full of angry protest either, which is indeed a rarity. I hope one day to inspire that kind of intelligent communication from our grid supporters.

Recently, Gwyn has been talking on the subject of CONTENT PROTECTION, which, if you're a paying member of our grid, you know this is a subject my team and I have worked very hard on for our OpenSim grid. I've not responded before, because I didn't want anyone accusing us of using Gwyn's blog to promote our grid, but I felt compelled to this time. So, I opened up my word doc and dived in. After I got done, it occurred to me this would be good reading for folks who drop by and read our blog, so here it is.

While SpotON3D can't promise 100% protection from copybot or other content ripping software - NO ONE CAN - our system does take a holistic approach to grid security that so far has been very successful. Let me explain ...

But first, a little disclaimer to maybe cut off a lot of unnecessary flaming and teeth nashing. Our grid systems don't appeal to everyone and that's fine. Its not our intent to be the grid for everyone. We are a very business minded grid and we feel trying to please everyone in a single grid is just not a realistic goal. So, for those who would feel this is too restrictive and would like to argue that point, its fine. You have every right to express you opinions. Just know its not going to change our direction and remember you have many many other OpenSim choices besides our grid to choose from besides ours.

Having said that little disclaimer, here is how we've addressed content theft on our grid:

1.) Registrations of FREE FOREVER accounts with the use of our client get you access to the General Population sections of the grid, and you can chat, travel and even shop to customize your avatar, but you'll not be able to own land, rez prims. build or script.

Why? We know this is the number one preferred means of hacking, spamming, scamming and lagging on any grid and we feel our paying customers deserve to be our main focus on them rather than handling griefers and such.

****For you shop-a-holics thinking how can you unpack your purchases if you can't rez or own land we simply instruct them to attach the box to their avatar and unpack it directly from there.If you're doing the V-8 head slap, TRUST ME! I was there too, thinking of all the years I went running back home to try on stuff. :P And go figure that a very STRAIGHT male avatar GUY thought this up!!! OK ... I digress!!!

2.a) All paid memberships are verified via PayPal accounts, providing reasonable verification on age and identity in one step without being invasive or demanding your national ID or driver's license.

Why? While some kids might brave sneaking mom's CC out of her purse to get an account, we're betting they'll be much less likely to go rummaging through their parents banking statements to verify a bogus PayPal account.

2.b) All membership are created under one PayPal verified Passport Account that services and controls up to 5 avatars. This means their Passport account is linked to all aspects of their grid experience, such as land ownership, selling privileges, mature area access, and the ability to see and purchase mature content. If one of those avatars messes up it has the potential to affect all the other avatars if they are suspended or even banned. Yes, a new PayPal account can be created, but that's not an unlimited option and would put anyone using fraudulent information to establishing those accounts in real jeopardy of being prosecuted on a criminal level.

3.) We sort all other clients than our own to an isolated region, blocking potentially malicious clients from accessing the rest of our grid.

Why? If they can't see it they can't copy it. Some jump to the conclusion that we are a closed network, but that could not be further from the truth. If you'd like to hear more on that score you'll have to be clever and figure out who we are. Simply would take too long here and digress from this conversation, but suffice it to say we've made cross grip TPing and selling a reality.

4.) We support a community driven Mediation Panel of 3 to 5 randomly selected registered paying users to hear DMCA cases and even other grid disputes. They are responsible for making any recommendations to what should happen. They also have the option of turning to a real world legal agent to advise if necessary.

5.) If one or both parties are not happy with the recommendations they have the option to take it to court, or go through Arbitration with our real world judge residing, whose opinions are recognized by most courts world wide - all for a very affordable fee of $100-$300 per person. If one of the parties refuses to pay the fee than the other party can foot the bill, but per our TOS they are required to participate or settle on the Mediation Panel's resolution, or relinquish their membership account and be suspended or even banned from the grid.

6.) We educate through the mediation system by allowing the residents of our grid to witness the proceedings. Everything is out in the open as a means to keep it honest and to educate the community on the difference between mediated agreements and how the letter of the law applies to a given situation. Sometimes what is right isn't always legally possible to make right.

To all the nay sayers who will cry out that any hole can be punched into our security, yeah you might be right, but we kinda figure its like any software development, in that its an on going committment. Rarely is software made and then touched or upgraded again. Why should the security of a grid be any different?

To all those who would argue that there are other non-client ways to rip content, we'd have to agree, But seeing our content creators will get meticulous records of purchases made by verified avatars- not only of those on our grids, but those they sold to other grids - it will be very easy to point out items that have been ripped and found on grids not authorized to have their content there. Are our systems perfect? No, but we feel they create enough road blocks for those who would fain ignorance of what they are doing to think twice.

Why are we being so diligent? Because its the right thing to do. Both owners of this company are experts in their field, one being a 14+ year vetran of the 3D Web, and the other being an IP attorney out of Washington, DC. So yeah, we take this stuff seriously.

Can we promise copybot or interface copy tools will never gain access to our grid? No. NO ONE can promise that. But we feel that is not reason to give up or not even try. If we only match real world security success of 70-90% that's a huge improvement. And we still believe that if you give people enough reasons to pause and think of what they are doing, the majority will make the right choice.

Ultimately though, its time people realize that the theft of content creation ISN'T PART OF SOME 'GAME' OR A 'GAME CHEAT'. Its a real and legally prosecutable offense, both civilly and criminally. But I'd much rather they look at the many artist who make these great assets as real people who pay their bills, keep a roof over their heads, and take great pride and joy in providing us with some of the best content the world has seen to date. Isn't it time we respected their hard work and stopped pretending its JUST a game?

1 comment:

  1. I admire your dedication to protecting content. Currently I am unable to find the source code to your viewer ( which is a requirement for anyone using the Hippo/SL codebase) you are redistrubuting through your downloadable installer. Hopefully your as respectfull about sharing hte viewer code as you are about the use of content.

    Thanks and Happy New year!